Keeping pets calm during fireworks

Caroline Allen

Caroline Allen - Credit: Archant

Before you start lighting fireworks and dancing around bonfires this week, spare a thought for your furry friends.

Loud firework displays can be extremely stressful for pets – but there are several ways you can make the experience less harrowing, says Caroline Allen, clinic director at Canonbury Vets in Essex Road.

Contrary to what you may think, reassuring your frightened cat or dog is one of the worst things you can do, she warns.

“You should behave as normally as possible – otherwise you’ll give them the feeling that there’s something to be worried about,” says Ms Allen, who has had a steady stream of concerned pet owners coming to her surgery for advice.

But she has some tips for how to make them feel more at ease.

“Make them feel secure by creating them a den where they can hide,” she says. This could be a space behind the sofa, for instance, or you could even sound-proof a crate with egg cartons.

In the case of rabbits, she suggests taking their cage indoors and putting a blanket over the hutch, while ensuring that there is enough air flow.

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“You can also play them a bit of music so that the bangs don’t sound as loud – obviously the music shouldn’t be too loud but try to choose something with a bit of bass in it.”

Dogs should be taken out for walks early before the worst of the noise. Along with cats, they should be kept indoors during firework displays, she advises.

“We’ve had cases of cats going missing, or dogs that have panicked and managed to get off the lead and cut or grazed their paws,” she says.

There are also medications that you can use for nervous pets, including pheromone treatments that give off a calming aroma only they can smell. For cats, you would use a Feliway diffuser; and for dogs, an Adaptil plug-in diffuser or collar is recommended.

For some dogs, prescription medication such as Valium may be required, but you will need to make an appointment with your vet.

It’s also possible to “desensitise” your pet through audio therapy – the sound of fireworks exploding needs to be played very softly at first so that it slowly gets used to the sound.